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Numsa threatens bus strike ahead of Easter weekend

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The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is threatening to embark on a strike in the bus sector ahead of the Easter weekend if employers do not put a “meaningful” wage offer on the table.

The union is negotiating with employers who are represented by the South African Bus Employers Association and the Commuter Bus Employer’s Organisation.

On Monday the union proposed an urgent meeting with employers, preferably within the next 48 hours, and indicated the “ball is in their court if they wish to avert a disaster”.

“We have been trying to negotiate with employers since January through the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council and we declared a dispute in February, but employers are stubbornly refusing to give workers a meaningful increase,” said Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

She said the employers’ refusal to negotiate health insurance benefits has triggered the potential strike.

According to Numsa, workers in the sector do not have medical aid or insurance.

Numsa said the only official proposal on the table was the mediators’ proposal which includes a two-year agreement from April 2023 to 31 March 2025 for a 7% increase for year one and year two on the minimum wage and all employees receiving a 7% increase on all allowances for two years.

The union said the employers want the issue of health insurance (or primary healthcare as it is referred to in the proposed agreement) to be dealt with at a company or plant level, and not at the National Bargaining Forum.

“We wish to state upfront that the mediators’ proposal does not reflect the position of the majority of unions. Numsa is the majority union in the bus passenger sector, and we did not endorse the proposal.”

Hlubi-Majola said the majority of Numsa members cannot afford medical aid on their salaries.

The lowest paid workers earn on average about R7,800 per month.

“If this issue is deferred to the plants, it means the likelihood of the majority of workers achieving this benefit is very low. Most companies will refuse to grant the benefit, and this is why we want this matter to be resolved in this round of negotiations, at a national level.”

The union said it understands that many commuters will be inconvenienced but urged them to direct their frustrations at the employer bodies. “We urge communities to make alternative plans for the long weekend because the strike is likely to disrupt services,” she said.

Source: TimesLIVE

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